Thinking about houses …

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about houses–what they represent about our deepest hopes, longings, and fantasies. Normally I don’t think about houses. Talking about real estate annoys me. It was hard for me in my late-twenties when some of my more interesting and quirky friends developed a mono-focus on buying houses. Instead of talking about wolf-sitings, or the mating habits of spiny dog fish, party conversations entered the flatland topics of mortgages, refinancing, and countertop tile.

Yesterday I made 2 cups of hot chocolate and went to visit my friend, G., who is a local contractor. He has been hired to take a reasonably sized house and turn it into something bordering excess. He toured me around big empty spaces–the master bedroom, the massive walk-in closets, and the identical bedrooms for kids one, two, and three. While we talked through the airy rooms that smelled of drywall, he outlined some of the projects: $18,000 for wall texturing, $10,000 for a window. I silently computed how far I could stretch that same amount of money ; that one window could easily translate into a year of hotsprings, decent wine, and the lesiure to write.

Dealing in numbers and blue prints, G.’s job seems deceptively mechanistic, but he often finds himself privy to some of the more intense of human dramas. Building a house can put a strain on a marriage–not just over wallpaper preferences, or money, but over deep issues of commitment. Even as he adds expensive details to this house, the couple contemplates divorce.

It seems heartbreaking to me. To put all of ones energies, hopes, and love into a project and have it fall apart before it is barely realized. To find oneself living alone in a monument to things lost.

Whether or not the couple’s relationships pan out, G. does beautiful work. His talent shines most when let loose on his own projects. This year he built the Moonshine Luv Shack and drove it all the way to the Black Rock Desert for Burning Man. I spent a week on the shack–eating, sleeping, socializing– and fell in love with its small spaces, its odd details. Comfortable, mobile, quirky, full of love and friends, it was the best space I have ever lived in. It was a style of living that combined a sense of both mobility and settling– and felt more in harmony with real life and all its surprises.

3 thoughts on “Thinking about houses …

  1. A topic close to my heart as I have spent my life running from such commitments as house buying or property owning. One becomes wed to a location that requires constant upkeep and investment. On the flip side, one can also throw money at rent and never see any results other than having a roof over ones head. The best investment is a strong vehicle that can double as a home on the road.

  2. My elder friend, Nathan, used to laugh at me when I called my old ’89 Toyota pickup ‘an investment’. Being a financial adviser, he couldn’t see what investment could possible exist in the annually depreciating hunk ‘o junk he saw me driving. How could I draw for him in words the limitless experiences it provided me over the five years that I lived in the back of it? I traveled throughout the West and Baja California, living from hot spring to hot spring until I could say that I had stopped counting them at one hundred and seventy five. Instead, I would smile innocently. I let him believe that I was naive enough to suggest there would be some financial rewards eventually. No rent or mortgage payments could by the permanent gifts that vehicle has given to my soul.

  3. Chris you looked so at home in the Luv Shack! From one first-timer to another, you carried an old-timer sense of comfort in the midst of the bizarre… I look forward to next year 🙂

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